This article compares Wusthof vs Henckels kitchen knives.
A good kitchen knife is a chef’s best friend. It’s the backbone of meal prep, and it can make or break a meal. But high-quality knives aren’t just for professional chefs.
Kitchen knives are essential tools for a home cook. I’ve joked that my kitchen knife set is the most valuable thing in my home. They’re that important.
That’s why we’re taking a closer look at Wusthof and Henckels, two prominent brands in the knife industry.
About Wusthof Knives
Wusthof has been around since 1814, when Johann Abraham Wusthof started making shears in Solingen, Germany. But Wusthof has come a long way since its founding.
Today Wusthof knives have a global presence in over 80 countries. This family-owned business is now in its seventh generation, with cousins Viola and Harald Wusthof at the helm. The company headquarters are still in Solingen.
Wusthof makes several collections. The two most popular lines are the Wusthof Classic and the Wusthof Ikon, or Wusthof Classic Ikon. These sets are among the best of Wusthof knives.
Wusthof’s reputation for excellence in design and quality has earned this company a spot among the world’s top-selling knife brands.
I’ve chosen the Classic line from Wusthof here as the most comparable with Henckels. But there are many more Wusthof product lines–see my Wusthof Knives Reviews for more.
About Henckels Knives
Henckels, also known as J.A. Henckels, is under the umbrella of Zwilling J.A. Henckels. Zwilling was started when Peter Henckels registered the Zwilling trademark with the local Cutler’s Guild in 1731.
Like Wusthof, Zwilling J.A. Henckels is based in Solingen, Germany. Zwilling and Wusthof, along with several others, have earned Solingen the nickname, “City of Blades.”
Zwilling J.A. Henckels also operates several other kitchen brands, including Staub, Ballarini, Miyabi, and Demeyere.
Henckels knives are known for their lightweight blades and Western-style design. Henckels knives are designed for home cooks who want quality at an affordable price.
At a Glance
If you want the very best German knives? You simply can’t beat the quality and craftsmanship of a Wusthof knife. Wusthof blades are slightly harder, and the edges slightly sharper, than Henckels.
However, Zwilling J.A. Henckels kitchen knives are also of great quality but with a more palatable price tag.
There are also other considerations beyond that. Does it matter to you where products are manufactured? Do you need a single knife or a complete set? Are you on a tight budget?
All of these factors are important. But I’ve broken down the features, pros and cons, and alternatives to Wusthof and Henckels.
When it comes to Wusthof vs. Henckels, which one comes out on top? Keep reading to learn more.
What to Look For in High-Quality German Kitchen Knives
There are two main components to knife handles: ergonomics and aesthetics. You want the handle to look and feel nice.
Handle materials range from wood to polypropylene to cheap plastic. It’s essential to choose a handle using quality materials.
A proper knife handle should be comfortable and easy to hold, and it should resist fading, staining, and cracking. Lastly, it should be sturdy and balanced.
The bolster is the part of the knife that thickens before the blade meets the handle. These are common with forged knives. Some knives have no bolster at all, while others have a half-bolster design.
A bolster strengthens a knife and makes it easier to sharpen the entire blade. The bolster also provides a nice counterbalance to the blade.
Finally, it can provide some finger protection by preventing your fingers from sliding onto the blade while cutting.
The tang refers to how the blade is attached to the handle. Full tang means the blade extends all the way to the butt of the handle. A full tang construction gives you a better grip and more durability.
A partial tang, or part tang, is when the blade extends only part of the way through the handle. It is inserted into the handle and attached with adhesive. This is the most common construction for stamped knives. Read more about stamped knives below.
Forged vs. Stamped Knives
When manufacturers make knives, they use one of two processes to form the knife blades. They either cut (“stamp”) the knife shape out of a flat piece of steel, or they heat and hammer (“forge”) the blade from a single steel rod.
Forged knives are generally more robust and balanced than stamped knives. A forged knife will also maintain its sharp edge longer, lessening the need for constant sharpening.
But forged knives are less flexible, which is not ideal for filleting or other delicate cuts. Expect to pay more for a forged knife, too.
Stamped knives, on the other hand, are not typically as durable or sharp as forged knives. But their flexibility makes them suited for delicate cuts. They’re also more affordable.
Most kitchen knives are made using high carbon steel. The high carbon content translates to a sharper cutting edge and a resistance to wear and tear. However, the increased blade hardness makes them more brittle and more susceptible to rust than stainless steel blades.
Stainless steel blades are also fairly common. This is a softer steel than its high carbon counterpart. These blades are rust-resistant and more flexible, but they won’t be as sharp or as durable as high carbon steel.
The best blade angle is somewhere between 10-20 degrees on either side.
A lower angle makes the knife edges sharper and more suited for precise, delicate cuts, yet a higher angle makes the blade more durable and better for rough, high-impact cuts.
Think in terms of a razor versus an ax. A razor has a blade angle of 7-12 degrees, while an ax would have an angle north of 30 degrees.
Wusthof vs. Henckels Product Reviews
WUSTHOF Classic 15-Piece Knife Block Set
This 15-piece knife block set comes with the following:
- 3.5-inch (8.89 cm) paring knife
- 4.5-inch (11.43 cm) & 6-inch (15.24 cm) utility knife
- 5-inch (12.7 cm) Santoku knife
- 8-inch (20.32 cm) bread knife
- 8-inch (20.32 cm) Cook’s knife
- Six 4.5-inch (11.43 cm) steak knives
- 9-inch (22.86 cm) honing steel
- Come-apart kitchen shears
- 17-Slot Acacia Block
Customer reviews were highly positive regarding the Wusthof classic set. They were pleased with the sharpness and thicker blades. They loved the quality and feel of each piece. Users also praised the customer service.
Watch this video to see Wusthof’s Chef Mike Garrity discuss which three knives are essential to any kitchen:
WUSTHOF Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
Wusthof also sells individual pieces, such as these 8-inch (20.32 cm) Chef knives. With all the same features as the Wusthof Classic set, it’s no wonder this knife is popular among users.
It’s multi-purpose and best for chopping, mincing, slicing, and dicing. This high-quality Chef’s knife is one of the most versatile knives in the Wusthof collection.
J.A. Henckels International Forged Premio 19-piece Knife Set
Even larger than the Wusthof set, this Henckels set of knives comes with 19 pieces:
- Two, 3-inch (7.62 cm) paring knives (one hollow edge)
- 5-inch (12.7 cm) serrated & 6-inch (15.24 cm) utility knife
- 5.5-inch (13.97 cm) boning knife
- 8-inch (20.32 cm) bread knife
- 8-inch (20.32 cm) Chef’s knife
- Eight 4.5-inch (11.43 cm) steak knives
- 9-inch (22.86 cm) sharpening steel
- Come-apart kitchen shears
- 18-Slot wood knife block with Cherry finish
The Zwilling J.A. Henckels forged construction and bolster offer terrific balance as well as great edge retention and ease of re-sharpening;
Customers were delighted with the Henckels Forged Premio set. Some complained about the quality and shape of the steak knives, but reviews were primarily positive. They liked the lightweight handling and sharp blades.
Watch this video from Henckels to learn how to properly use the Chef’s Knife and Santoku knife:
J.A. Henckels International Forged Premio 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
Zwilling Henckels makes this 8-inch (20.32 cm) Chef’s knife, one of the kitchen’s most useful tools. This knife can be used for dicing, slicing, chopping, and mincing.
These Henckels Chef’s knives boast a professional satin-finished blade for precision cutting and long-lasting sharpness. Users agreed that this knife was extremely useful in the kitchen.
The Wusthof knife lines (Wusthof Classic Ikon knives, Wusthof Crafter, Wusthof Grand Prix II, etc.) come in a variety of handles, but they are ergonomic and feature the Wusthof logo. The Classic knife collections have polypropylene handles that are stain and fade-resistant.
The only drawback? The logo is a sticker and not etched on. Some people didn’t like the bright red logo on the handle. An etched logo on the handle cap, like the Wusthof Ikon knives have, would be better.
The Henckels handles are also ergonomic and have triple rivets. They have the Henckels logo on the stainless steel end cap of the handle. These handles are nicer in appearance than the Wusthof, but some users did have issues with cracked handles.
Aesthetically, Henckels wins. In regards to durability, Wusthof wins. Both Wusthof and Henckels are comfortable, so there is no clear winner in the handles category.
There is a slight difference in the hardness of the knives. For a hardness rating, Henckels blades score 56-57 Rockwell, which is a softer steel than what you’d find in Japanese-style knives.
Wüsthof knives are rated at 58 Rockwell, so they’re somewhat harder and more durable than the Henckels knives. That being said, Henckels sharpens more easily than the Wusthof.
Another significant difference is the angle at which the blade is sharpened. Henckels sharpens their knives to a 15° per side on standard blades and 10° per side on Santoku knives.
Wusthof has a narrow blade. Wusthof sharpens its blades to 14 degrees per side on most standard blades and 10° per side on Japanese-style knives like the Santoku and Nakiri.
This makes Henckels blades more durable but Wusthof’s knives better at precision cutting.
Both Wusthof and Henckels sets are forged. The Wusthof knife set is made in Germany and forged from a single block of high carbon steel. The Zwilling J.A. Henckels set is made in China and is forged from German rust-resistant steel.
Both sets have full tang and triple rivets. They also sport a half bolster, so you can easily grip the knife and use the entire blade when cutting foods.
Even though these both have quality construction, The Wusthof set is made in Germany with a better steel. For that reason, I give Wusthof the edge in this category.
While there is a difference in quality between Wusthof vs. Henckels, there’s also a difference in price. Wusthof kitchen knives will be significantly pricier than Henckels. If you want a durable German-style knife without breaking the bank, your best bet is Henckels.
Forever Sharp Classic Series Knives (Best on a budget)
For those on a tight budget, these Forever Sharp Classic Series Knives are a viable alternative. This set comes with three Forever Sharp knives, a filet knife, two paring knives, four steak knives, and two bonus juicers.
These knives are serrated, meaning they have tiny protruding teeth on the blade. Serrated knives are better for a sawing motion but are not suited for chopping. These particular knives are lower cost stamped knives from surgical stainless steel. However, some customers had issue with rusting and discoloration.
The Forever Sharp knives are not going to have the durability or sharpness of a German knife, but they are sharp and affordable.
If you are interested in this brand, see my more detailed Forever Sharp Knives Review.
CUTCO Homemaker+8 Knife Block Set (Best Splurge)
Looking to splurge? This Cutco Homemaker+8 Knife block set includes a bread and petite Chef’s knife, a carving knife, petite carving knife, a butcher knife, two carving forks, a spatula spreader, a trimmer, a paring knife, and 8 table steak knives.
This set features full tang, ergonomic thermo-resin handles, and stamped blades of high-carbon stainless steel. The handles are triple-riveted and come in a classic black or pearly white color. Every Cutco knife is American-made and comes with a forever guarantee.
These knives are significantly more expensive than other options, but they have an excellent reputation for quality, durability, and responsive customer service.
Wusthof Vs. Henckels: Which One Is Better?
Both Wusthof and Henckels produce high-quality German-style knives, but which one is the best option?
If you want to buy the best set of German knives, I would go with the Wusthof Classic set. This could very well be your last set due to the quality and long-lasting performance. However, the Henckels set will give you most of the same benefits while being affordable.
If you can just get one knife, however, I would go with the Wusthof Classic Chef’s Knife. It gives you maximum versatility and performance. Even at a higher price, you’ll easily get your money’s worth and more.
The good news? Whichever brand you choose, you can know you’ll be getting a high-quality set of German knives.
Remember I’ve reviewed many other Wusthof knife lines, so if you are interested in Wusthof, check it out.